New push to put interlock devices in cars of first-time DUI offe - - Columbia, South Carolina

New push to put interlock devices in cars of first-time DUI offenders


Before you head out on the roads to visit family or attend a holiday party, you may want to remember to celebrate responsibly.

Over the Christmas holiday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates there will be 45 fatalities a day caused by drunk drivers.

Last year, South Carolina lost 348 people in drunk driving crashes -- that's almost one a day.

One of those lives lost has inspired legislation that seeks to keep a closer watch on those first time DUI offenders.

"Emma's law", named after Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunk driver on New Year's Day almost two years ago, would require first time offenders to have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle if their blood alcohol level was more than .12 at the time of their arrest. That's the rough equivalent of having six beers in an hour.

Interlock activists claim that first offenders drive drunk on average 87 times before they are caught, so they hope harsher penalties will deter similar behavior in the future.

"In other states that have passed all offender DUI bills, their DUI fatality reductions have been as much as 30 percent, in some cases up to 45 percent," said activist Steve Burrett. "In South Carolina, that's more than 100 lives a year we could save if we had interlocks for all first offense DUI."

That bill will be discussed in the House when session resumes in January.

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